Fantasy football is inherently a game that leads to irrational thinking. So much is riding on each week and each game to win sweet cash that players who have scorched you in the past come with feelings of deep anxiety, even when you’re fully aware that starting said player may not only be a good move, but the best move. I’m not sure if we’ve invented a medical term for this syndrome, but it should be called “Michael Vickitis”.
The Eagles quarterback has undoubtedly prompted more erratic fantasy decisions than any other player of his kind in this era. His owners were reluctant to draft him because of both his brittle nature and his tendency to give the ball to defenders who definitely aren’t on his team. And now they’re also afraid to start him for the same reasons, because just a few weeks ago while untouched on a routine run Vick blew his hammy tire, which resulted in two missed games.
For those suffering from this reluctance, I hear and understand your fears. But we must overcome, because a now healthy Vick could be the highest producing quarterback today.
That applies even if he isn’t quite fully healthy, though all indications this week are that he’s as close as he’ll get to that status after experiencing no setbacks from a 100-yard sprint in practice on Friday. In a week when two of the top 10 fantasy quarterbacks are on their byes (Andrew Luck and Philip Rivers), and another fine depth option is out (Joe Flacco), Vick has the juiciest matchup of all the late-round quarterbacks likely stashed on benches.
When he suffered that hamstring injury three weeks ago, he did it against the Giants, his opponent today. In that game Vick had already recorded 105 passing yards and 79 rushing yards while not even quite playing a full half of football. That adds up to 12 fantasy points in just two quarters against the league’s 21st-ranked run defense (allowing 110.0 rushing yards per game).
Vick has had a run of 30 yards or more in four of his five games this year, one of which came against the Giants (34 yards). Since that day the Giants added middle linebacker Jon Beason, but he’s much more of a bruising brute against the run at his age. As always, the responsibility of containing any quarterback who enjoys a good run falls to the defensive ends who control the edges, and the Giants have also allowed Cam Newton (45 rushing yards and a touchdown), and Alex Smith (37 yards) to run freely. Hell, even Jay Cutler scrambled for 20 yards in Week 6, which is a decent little uptick from his career per game average (12.1).
So please, fight those inner Vick demons, and start him with confidence.
More stray lineup thoughts and words of warning
This is finally a good week to be leaning on Mike Wallace
Most weeks have been bad weeks to be starting Mike Wallace, or owning him at all. But he’s been targeted much more lately (26 of them over the past two weeks), and predictably that’s led to more production (181 receiving yards over the same stretch, and over the previous two weeks period he had all of 46 yards). So that’s encouraging, with Ryan Tannehill finally looking his way more often.
There’s a very real chance those good vibes continue today. Of all the fun information nuggets in Evan Silva‘s weekly must-read matchups breakdown post over at Rotoworld, this is one of the more daunting digits: Aqib Talib — the Patriots’ top cornerback who’s been firmly in shutdown mode all season — has only allowed one touchdown this year, and it came way back in Week 1. Please recall that two weeks ago Talib held Jimmy Graham without a catch, with is an incredible feat for any human. But alas, after practicing in a limited capacity this week and looking like he had a good chance to participate in this afternoon’s proceedings, Talib is inactive with a hip injury.
Be even more worried about Jimmy Graham
As I write this it’s 11 a.m. ET, meaning in about a half hour we’ll get either doom or euphoria, with Graham declared in or out (I’ll toss one of those important looking updates in here, because we have the technology to do that). Let’s be clear here, though: you shouldn’t be trying any funny business, and if Graham is playing in reality, he’s also playing in your fantasy lineup. Even a limited Graham is better than any other tight end in the league not named Rob Gronkowski.
Gronk actually provides the perfect example of what we might see today (or next week if he sits today) from a limited Graham. A week ago Gronkowski played but he was on a bit of a leash, appearing in 51 of the Patriots’ 79 offensive snaps. Yet he was still targeted a pretty stupid 17 times. When a tight end of that caliber is on your roster, he’s used heavily when healthy.
That said, both today and going forward there’s legitimate reason to question Graham’s effectiveness following reports that he has a partially torn fascia, which makes it extremely difficult to cut and run, and most importantly, to get the required burst to leap and beat defensive backs to contested balls. That unique ability is what separates Graham from the rest, and as injury expert Jene Bramel notes, it’s the same injury (just not as severe…yet) that drained Antonio Gates of his elite-ness in 2011.
It’s not too late to insure yourself with Ben Watson, even now just a short time before the early games kickoff. Watson is owned in only five percent of Yahoo leagues, and one percent of ESPN leagues.
(UPDATE: Graham is active, so you’re playing him. But the above concern about his effectiveness this week and beyond still applies.)
Peyton Manning has two sprained whaaaaaa?
Both of P. Manning’s ankles are sprained, including a high right ankle sprain aggravated by Robert Mathis’ 2nd sack. Pain killer for today.
— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) October 27, 2013
Your instinctive reaction here is to hide deep in that underground concrete box you made specifically for situations of this nature. But please, let’s not overreact here and do anything rash like bench the best player in both reality football and fake football this year, and really any other sort of football imaginable.
Although I think we can safely assume that having two sprained ankles isn’t exactly a comfortable experience — this is especially true if you’re a 37-year-old quarterback whose body has generally been knocked the F out over the past few years — the primary concern with an ankle injury of any severity is a lack of mobility. Please consult C.J. Spiller and earlier this year Roddy White for examples of players who have played through ankle injuries not painful enough to bench them, but they’re entirely zapped of any burst and effectiveness.
But Spiller and White play positions where burst is a required asset. Manning does too sort of, but only if he was named Cam Newton or Robert Griffin III, and not Peyton Manning. He’s never been mobile even when healthy, and he’s not about to start now. He avoids sacks before the play even starts with his field vision by shifting protections and opting out of plays that may expose him. Then after the snap his quarterback mental alarm we always speak of goes off quickly, giving pass rushers little time.
His arm strength may be effected, because both power and the mechanics of the throwing motion start with footwork. But while he can still make deep throws when needed, this is a quarterback whose arm strength is fading regardless, and yet he’s still on pace to judo chop passing records. The concern here doesn’t lie so much with Manning’s performance, but instead with the chance for a further, more devastating injury. Thankfully, the Broncos’ Week 9 bye is coming at the perfect time.